Karkloof Conservation Centre
The Reedbuck have been seen regularly again. A ram with 2 females were at the Gartmore pan with another ram frequenting the Loskop pan.
There were sightings of a Cardinal Woodpecker in the Plane trees at the office. This bird fascinates many scientists, engineers and doctors due to it’s ability to withstand brain damage considering that it drums away at a rate of 18-22 times per second, with a “deceleration” force of 1200 g. Humans, on the other hand, will lose consciousness under 4 to 6 g’s and a sudden deceleration of 100 g will cause a concussion. Through the studies done on woodpeckers, designs have been created to replicate the woodpeckers which have been used in shock absorbers for aeroplane flight recorders and helmuts.
Again, all 3 crane species were seen this month. A pair of Blue Cranes were foraging amongst Stuart MacKenzie’s cattle, a pair of Wattled Cranes were regular visitors on Loskop Pan, and about 30 Grey-crowned Cranes were on Gartmore and Colbourne farms.
The Village Weavers have started building their nests above the office again. The males were using the vegetation around the garden as well as Charlie’s cover crop for their nesting materials. It is amazing to witness such craftsmanship by these birds. I can’t even get close to building the same nest with my 10 fingers, yet they are able to build this intricate design using their bills.
An interesting sighting that was noted this month was a Common Greenshank. The African Olive-Pigeon (formerly known as a Rameron Pigion) which is the largest Pigeon in the region has also been sighted. The African Sacred Ibis have increased with sightings of about 30 – seems like they too are upset with the Municipal landfill site where they usually occur. Reed Cormorants and African Darters were seen sunning themselves. A Grey Heron, as well as a pair of African Shelducks have taken up residence on the Loskop pan.
African Fish Eagles, African Marsh-Harriers and Black-shouldered Kites have been seen at the pans. Long-crested Eagles and Jackal Buzzards are seen along the Karkloof Road on telephone poles with Yellow-billed Kites soaring in the air.
Others great sightings: Yellow-billed Ducks, White-faced Ducks, Egyptian Geese, Spur-winged Geese, Red-billed Teal, Black Crake, African Rails, Three-banded Plovers, Blacksmith Lapwings, Black-winged Lapwings, African Wattled Lapwings, Pied Kingfishers, African Stonechats, Common Fiscal, Cape Wagtails, Levaillant’s Cisticolas, Fork-tailed Drongos, Yellow-fronted Canaries, Dark-capped Bulbuls, White-throated Swallows, Hadeda Ibis and Black-headed Herons.
Snake love story continues: In May this year, we had witnessed the Natal Green Snake and the Variegated Bush Snake “cuddling” on our Trellidor. Pat McKrill had mentioned that the fat Natal Greeny seen days later may have eaten the Bush Snake. In August I found this Variegated Bush Snake curled up when I opened the Conservation Centre’s door. I do hope this is the same one that survived and that love overcame all hunger obstacles. In September I will be looking for the young hybrids which would really put a happy ending to this story.
Bundy and Wendy Shaw – Shawswood
Samango Monkeys were seen in the forest and have developed the art of hiding from the camera. A Bushbuck was seen on the path from Mount Gilboa to Shawswood. We found a monkey skull in the field with a crack in the upper part of the skull.
Postman Pat – volunteer at Karkloof Conservation Centre
I apologise! For many years, I have derisively referred to some friends and colleagues as “bird brains” when they have done something worthy of entry into the Darwin Awards. I now consider this epithet insulting to birds!
I was watching the White-throated Swallows from the Gartmore hide and they have some amazing advantages over humans:- they can fly and they have built in GPS systems. The pair which has moved into the nest under the eaves of the hide is probably the pair which built it about three years ago. How many thousand kilometres have they flown in that time and how many insects have they devoured? The homing instinct is perhaps the most remarkable feature of some birds. Even the humble pigeon which was not gifted with an overdose of brain cells is capable of pinpointing its home from hundreds of kilometres away.
When I was running the Blood Bank in Port Shepstone, I had a problem transporting specimens of patient’s blood from the hospital in Bizana to my laboratory. Usually the hospital would send them with the railway bus service, which took several hours and the specimens were often lost or damaged in transit. Whilst trying to solve this problem I was inspired by a few ales and asked some friends for help. There was a very active pigeon fanciers club in Port Shepstone, and I persuaded some of the members to lend me a few birds which we sent up to Bizana where they boarded with a local policeman. When the hospital needed to send me a specimen, instead of waiting for the next bus (which only ran once a day) they would take 2mls of blood into a small tube, clip it to a birds leg, let it go and phone me to tell me it was on its way. It worked perfectly, and prevented several possibly fatal transfusions of incompatible blood. Birdbrains do have some uses!
It has always surprised me how swallows and drongos risk drowning when they drink from the pans by flying just above the surface of the water and dipping their beaks into it. The drongos actually go a bit deeper as I have seen them coming back to their perch with sopping wet chests. I know their feathers are fairly hydrophobic, but they’re not like the amphibians which have webbed feet and can swim and get a bit of forward momentum to take off. Did penguins advance from other species which couldn’t take off after falling in the water?!
Lynn Morphew – Colebourne Farm
Tim Hancock – Spitzkop Farm
In the beginning of August I saw Lazy Cisticola and a Brown-crowned Tchagra (previously known as a Threestreaked Tchagra).
John and Jenny Robinson – Benvie Farm
A pair of Black Sparrowhawks used a Long-crested Eagle’s nest and in August they managed to fledge their offspring. I am seeing them with the parent in the garden being taught to hunt.
Cape Parrots are also preparing a nest in a Blackwood tree so holding thumbs! The Orange Thrushes are being seen in good numbers and in pairs. Now getting ready to breed as soon as we get some decent rain. In general lots of Swee Waxbills in the garden and White-starred Robins are seen regularly.
Pierre Oliver and Ronnie Ritchie – Mbona
The Karkloof was one of the many lucky recipients of a winter wonderland snow fall on the 7 August 2012! The first picture was taken by Pierre and he explained that he could hear the Zebra’s teeth chattering while he was taking the photo.
Jennie Shaw – Mholweni Farm
Peter and Gill Train
Gill took this photo of Bronze Mannikins on her bird feeder. They look quite satisfied with themselves for finding food and shelter during the snow. I’m sure we all wonder about what happens to the animals during the snow and we hope that their survival instincts kick in.
Tony Matchett – Benson Farming
Tony Matchett gave us good news that both Wattled Crane chicks in the valley have survived the snow! Let’s hope the 2 pairs of cranes are able to fledge their chicks successfully.